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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Shea Butter or Coconut Oil...Both Awesome Moisturizers and Why

Life is so full of choices, sometimes having to make decisions just seems to complicate things. When a customer reads through the listing descriptions for the shop's facial creams, there is talk about coconut oil vs. shea butter, refined vs. unrefined and by the end some people just say to themselves, "what?"

Once it all makes sense, having the option to choose what you want in your cream is a pretty cool thing. For those who don't care, the 'default' version uses refined coconut oil. I do that to avoid the issue of the natural coconut odor interfering with the scent of any essential oils used in the recipe.To most people coconut oil is coconut oil....isn't it? Actually, no.

Both the refined and unrefined coconut oils have been expeller, cold-pressed without the addition of any chemicals. The difference is in how the oil is then cleaned up.
There are refined coconut oils on the market that use a chemical distillation process dependent on solvents such as lye. These products may be hydrogenated using high heat which should be avoided as they create synthetic trans-fats.  

The refined coconut oil I use are refined using a natural, chemical-free cleaning process involving steam and/or diatomaceous earth. The cold pressed extraction method yields an oil of higher nutritional value than extraction methods that use chemicals or heat.
The smell of coconuts in the refined coconut oil is removed by heat, but the temperatures do not go over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Some antioxidants are destroyed but some can actually increase. So if you don't want your cream to smell like coconuts then choose the refined and know the source uses a chemical-free cleaning process.

So what is so great about coconut oil anyway? Coconut oil is nature's most abundant source of Medium-Chain Triglycerides. When applied to your skin, your natural good bacteria convert these Medium-Chain Triglycerides into Antimicrobial Fatty Acids (lauric acid being very high). Antimicrobial Fatty Acids act like nature's natural bodyguards for your skin. 

Why coconut oil is a good moisturizer all comes down to the small molecular structure of coconut oil. Its undersized structure promotes easy absorption through the skins pores and follicles. Coconut oil's deep moisturizing properties rapidly hydrate, condition, and shield the skin from moisture loss. 

It had been believed that coconut oil can clog pores and aggravate a flair up or cause acne. Yes or No?
So here is the scoop from a post by Miss Coco:

"You’ve probably heard by now that extra virgin coconut oil is good for the skin. It is a fantastic moisturizer that softens and soothes skin, is highly absorbent, and is even full of antibacterial, anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants. It is almost unanimously agreed to be excellent for the body. But whether it is good for the face is debated. People have mysteriously mixed results, from the coconut oil clearing up acne for many to it causing breakouts for others. So what’s the verdict? Is coconut oil good for the face? Does coconut oil clog pores? 

Coconut oil seems to block some people’s pores but not others. Why? Coconut oil is considered to be fairly comedogenic. A comodegenic substance is one that is likely to block pores of susceptible people. Comodegens aren’t guaranteed to block or clog pores, but they could. On a scale of four where four is “most comodegenic”, coconut oil rates as about a two. However: Whether a person is susceptible to getting clogged pores boils down to their skin type. First of all, pores are clogged when debris like dead skin cells, natural skin oil and bacteria get blocked in, resulting in a blackhead or whitehead. Large pores are easier to clog than small ones: If you have large pores and tend to get blackheads, then yes, coconut oil might clog your pores if you use it as a face moisturizer — especially if you don’t exfoliate first. You can tell you have large pores if you have oily skin. Small pores, on the other hand, are too narrow to secrete enough of the skin’s natural oil and often mean dry skin. For that matter, small pores aren’t big enough to hold much debris at all, and therefore don’t have much to clog in the first place. People with small pores and non-sensitive skin will likely have better success with coconut oil.

But not so fast! Why is it that for many people, coconut oil is a dream facial moisturizer? Extra virgin coconut oil has compounds that prevent acne bacteria from replicating, which is why when it works the results are so dramatic. Studies have shown that coconut oil’s fatty acids are actually 15 times better at this than benzoyl peroxide. Coconut oil is also soothing and heals redness, and is packed with antioxidants than can prevent aging damage to the skin. Its ferulic acid is even more effective than Vitamin E in this, reducing age spots, preventing aging of skin, and repairing damage from UV rays."

Then we have Shea Butter which along with Cocoa Butter are considered the "ultimate moisturizers".

African Shea butter is derived from the nut of the Karite tree, which grows throughout West Africa.  The name Karite actually means the Tree of Life for the people of this region. Shea butter has such amazing abilities to renew, repair and protect the skin that it has been used for centuries for healthy skin from head to toe. 

Shea butter has a very high content of non-saponifiable fats which act as a natural skin moisturizer that balances and tones the skin . Shea butter is extremely high in Vitamins A, E & fatty acids. Shea butter is a very rich source of oleic acid, the essential fatty acid responsible for deep moisture and long lasting protection. 

It is also this oleic acid content that is responsible for the unique thick and buttery texture of shea butter.
Unrefined Shea butter has a distinctive nutty scent.  However, once applied to skin the scent will start to fade and become very faint in about 20-30 minutes.

There are many differences between unrefined and refined shea butter.  Most noticeably are the scent, color and benefits.  Unrefined shea butter maintains its nutty scent, ivory to beige color and all of its healing properties.  Refined shea butter may be chemically altered to remove it's natural scent, is bleach white in color and may lose some of its natural healing properties. 

Shea butter may be a good choice for those who suffer from acne flair-ups or have oily skin. 
Here is a good post from The Shea Butter Lady:

"The beauty of Shea butter is that it’s readily absorbed into the skin and effectively provides moisture without clogging the pores. It’s ideal to use Shea butter for acne because it’s non-comedogenic, meaning that it doesn’t interfere with skin pores and block them.

The reason why unrefined Shea butter is so good for treating acne is because it is rich in antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. However, it’s very important that you use unrefined Shea butter for acne. If you use a product that has chemical additives, such as certain dyes and fragrances, it may further irritate the skin. This is especially the case for people suffering from acne because the skin is already sensitive and inflamed."

One very frustrating thing with shea butter is its tendency to get grainy. 
Shea is made up of different types of fatty acids, each with a different melting and cooling point. Since the butter is melted and cooled to make a cream, these fatty acids may separate from one another and cause the butter to get grainy. Therefore, the cream may develop tiny white dots throughout the cream. Should this happen, there is nothing wrong with the cream. The grainy feeling will immediately disappear upon contact with the heat of the skin.

As far as the choice of refined vs. unrefined in my products I use the refined for the facial creams because it still has it's excellent moisturizing properties but without the potential of an unpleasant odor. But for use in any of the healing salves I definitely want shea's healing properties so always use the unrefined.

I still had a few questions so I wrote to Alan with the customer service at SoapGoods, the wonderful source for many of my ingredients in my products. These are the questions I had for him along with his answers:

1. Can refined coconut oil (using the air dried cobra processing) or shea butter also be organic?

Yes many refined products including refined coconut oil / refined Shea Butter can be certified organic. We don't carry/manufacture these so I am unsure what effect if any the (the air dried cobra processing) method would have on certification.

2. The bleaching of the shea is done using natural methods such as diatomaceous earth. The coconut oil is cold pressed without the use of solvents. But I need to know what methods are used to remove the odor from both the shea and the coconut oil.

The Odor is removed from the shea using water/steam and Vacuum reactor, heat is used to remove the scent from coconut oil.

3. If solvents and chemicals are not used with the coconut oil are the antioxidants still destroyed by the use of heat?

As a precaution Cold pressed oils are not exposed to heat over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Some Antioxidants are destroyed some can actually increase.
 An interesting study (attached) says "Kapila, Chamil and Sagarika compared the antioxidant activities of coconut oil extracted under hot and cold conditions. The coconut oil
extracted under hot conditions (HECO) contained more phenolic substances than the coconut oil extracted under cold conditions(CECO). However, high temperatures used in the hot extraction of coconut oil favor the incorporation of more thermally stable phenolic antioxidants into coconut oil. Therefore, the consumption of HECO may result in improvement of antioxidant related health benefits
compared with the consumption of CECO."

4. Unless unrefined coconut oil is labeled organic does that mean it could contain impurities which make it not ideal for skin care? I know organic means pesticides weren't used but does that also mean conditions in processing are that much better than with the refined?

Not a-lot of knowledge on this, a specialist in Organic Certification an organic manufacturer or the USDA may have more information on that. 

So to wrap this up, both Shea Butter and Coconut Oil are great in creams and people usually have their own reasons for which they like better. Some people are allergic to coconuts. People with oily skin tend to like shea butter better. Coconut oil gets softer in warm temperatures so the cream has a softer texture whereas the shea butter cream has a firmer look to it. But as far as being good moisturizers, both are very good.

As far as the differences between a cream made with coconut oil and a cream made with shea butter:
Coconut oil gives the cream a shiny, smooth appearance.
Shea butter gives the cream more of a matte look and the texture is rich.

Take a closer look!

Coconut Trees
Shea Tree

Shea Nuts

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